The NY Post is trying to discredit Mayor Bill de Blasio by creating a questionable narrative that standards for graduation have declined in New York City high schools since the current Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina took over running the schools. The Post's entire series of stories on high school graduation scams, while accurate in some ways, is suspicious.
The Post is finally acknowledging that some of the game playing may have gone on during Michael Bloomberg's time as mayor. While barely mentioning the name Bloomberg in an opinion column yesterday, Sol Stern's Post piece blames progressive educational philosophy, endorsed by Farina, for our troubled schools. That is kind of ridiculous even by the Post's standards. Do they really expect us to believe that if we only taught phonics, none of the cheating in schools would have happened? I don't hear anyone complaining about progressive education philosophy when it is used at elite private schools.
Manipulating data in public schools is mainly a result of school reform's focus on improving graduation statistics where it is next to impossible to do so legitimately because of factors such as poverty or students who are new to the English language that are way beyond the control of educators.
Susan Edelman, who has some real reporter credentials, wrote a piece in the Post Sunday on teachers in NYC high schools being pressured to have high student passing percentage rates. At least she mentions Bloomberg's mayoralty but she then states that "under de Blasio and School's Chancellor Carmen Farina, cheating and gimmicks such as quickie online courses have continued--and possibly worsened, experts say."
In reality, teachers were complaining about falling standards and meaningless high school diplomas for years but especially when Bloomberg was Mayor and reform icon Joel Klein was his Chancellor.
Where was the Post's outrage when Bloomberg was Mayor?
Please read our blog post from May 2009 that was based upon my colleague Marc Epstein's revealing op-ed piece that the Daily News published which exposed a number of shortcuts to diplomas.
Here is what Marc said about credit recovery back then:
And here's the biggest problem of all. In recent years, again driven by pressure to improve graduation rates, schools began relying more on a program known as "credit recovery." Through credit recovery, a student can get credit for a failed course after attending at least nine hours of class and completing a total of 25 hours of work.The credit-recovery classes are held during school vacations or in after-school programs. They're sometimes referred to as "boot camp," and state and city directives call for "rigorous" standards.
But one doesn't need to be an education policy expert to judge that nine hours in class is a paltry substitute for 16 weeks of class work, or even the 36 hours of summer school in the old system. What amount to extra-credit assignments cannot substitute for course proficiency. Besides, no statewide mechanism for auditing these programs really exists, so it's left up to the full faith and credit of each school. Stories about schools "stuffing" credit-recovery programs to boost graduation figures are legion.
Marc described other shortcuts to graduation in his piece such as annualized courses, easier summer school and watered down evening school programs.
Please also recall that back in 2009, in order to boost those graduation and promotion numbers, Klein magically removed the 90% minimum student attendance requirement for promotion and graduation that was part of Chancellors Regulation A-501. The Department of Education revised the attendance regulation so it was no longer a necessity for students to attend school to graduate. A student just had to "maintain a goal of at least 90% attendance." I have a goal of a million hits for this blog piece and 200,000 votes for MORE in the next UFT election. By Joel Klein's standards, we have hit the target and should be winning viral prizes and running the UFT:
I ask again:
Who was the mayor in 2009? I believe his name was Michael Bloomberg.
Who was the chancellor in 2009? That would be Post publisher Rupert Murdoch's buddy Joel Klein.
Did the NY Post call for Klein's head after some of this "creative education policy" was exposed? No they hired him to run Murdoch's education business.
Only the names and some of the hustles have changed in our schools but the game goes on. We all know that Bloomberg's diploma factories, otherwise known as many NYC high schools, are operating at full capacity under Farina. The goal of the system for years has been to graduate the students, not to educate them, in too many schools.
De Blasio and Farina have made a huge mistake, in my opinion, by continuing most of Bloomberg's education policies that emphasize pupil statistics in a field where overall student performance is often not reflective of how professionals are performing their jobs.
Nothing is new. What is different now is that the Post is making it a major political issue to bring down the mayor and the public schools.
What really needs to change is the schools "test the kids and punish the schools" culture which is why this blog is arguing for a Truth Commission so educators can expose all of the graduation/promotion shortcuts without fear of reprisal. Blame can then be placed where it belongs which is mostly on Joel Klein, Michael Bloomberg, the federal No Child Left Behind law that created the test the kids and punish the schools policy and its offspring called Race to the Top under Barack Obama which exacerbated the problem.
The NY Post has no interest in fixing any of this. They are looking to call the public schools a failure and privatize them. Such a result would not improve education but people like Murdoch and Klein would make a great deal of money selling more education snake oil to schools.